A school business manager’s role is complex and challenging daily juggling act of jobs that need doing and things that need to be remembered. Without a robust monitoring system in place, keeping track of deadlines and contract end dates can be difficult.
One possible option is to buy a software application that will help you log and keep track of those future dates and events. There are a whole host of options available, with many mirroring the approaches you’d find in a good paper-based system – but with funding levels increasingly an issue for many, it may be that you need to find a more cost effective solution.
Your tracking solution should form part of a system that works effectively for both you and your setting, but consider what would happen if you weren’t there. How intuitive is your filing system? Could the vital information contained in your school’s administrative and financial records be easily retrieved and understood by your colleagues?
Whatever tracking solution you use, be sure to regularly review all of the maintenance contracts and recurring costs your school is signed up to, so that you can be certain you’re achieving continued value for money. There’s nothing more frustrating than missing a renewal window and being ‘rolled over’ into another contract period without any renegotiation. Allowing contracts to simply renew by themselves can result in you paying higher costs without any noticeable service improvements.
I personally use a mix of different systems according to what I need to track. For health and safety maintenance, regular checks and contract renewals I’ll use a wall calendar chart, as this provides all staff with a visible reminder of when important inspections will be taking place, and which contracts are nearing their end. Missing these can result in serious incidents and expensive claims, so it’s vital that the dates in question are clear and obvious to the rest of the team in case I’m absent for a period of time.
For other system checks and contract renewals I’ll use a well formulated spreadsheet with key information, listing types of service, company names, the purpose of each agreement and the relevant duration and expiry dates. This spreadsheet will also include details of contract responsibilities and values, payment terms and required notice periods.
Product, Purpose, Price
I’ll then use this information to set expiry date notifications via the school’s electronic calendar system, allowing enough time for the benefits of different services to be reviewed and alternative quotes to obtained if a service is still required. The purpose of every contract should always be fully understood, and alternative solutions be given due consideration. Many schools and businesses have previously signed up to contracts that weren’t really needed – remember, ‘Product, Purpose, Price.’
As part of a renewal process, consider also whether you might be able to secure a better deal via a Schools’ Buying Hub. Seeking support from experts can sometimes help ensure that the services in question are fully compliant with necessary procurement rules and regulations.
Ongoing good contract management helps to ensure that any available savings and/or efficiencies continue to be achieved, even after a contract is signed. Effective contract management will also help to maintain a positive relationship with a supplier, who can fully explain the terms and conditions of a contract and also ensure that what’s promised during the tender process is actually delivered.
Sue Gawman is a school business manager based at Tavistock Primary and Nursery School and a school resource management adviser.